Hairapy is a sensory-friendly salon offering haircuts to kids with special needs

ERDENHEIM, Pennsylvania -- "I've cut Ethan's hair for a long time," said Laura Lorenzon Maxwell. "And then one day, Ethan didn't want me to cut his hair anymore that day and we couldn't figure out why."

5-year-old Ethan Franks lives down the street from Laura. This allowed the hairstylist to spark a friendship with the Pre-K student. But that relationship gained a new meaning when Ethan was diagnosed with autism.

Laura, a 20-year industry veteran, tried everything to make him comfortable during a haircut. Sometimes, the only option was waiting until the child fell asleep.

"They tend to not enjoy haircuts because the sound is right next to their ears," said Laura. "Just having another blow dryer going, the phones ringing, it's magnified by thousands of times."

And as much as Laura helped Ethan, it seems that Ethan also helped Laura.

"He was one of the reasons why I really reached out to open my own salon," she said.

Hairapy by Laura opened its doors in 2021 at 808 Bethlehem Pike in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania. The family salon is open to all ages, but Laura considers individuals with special needs to be her specialty.

As the sole stylist, Laura can create a personalized environment for the client. Music, break time, and hands-on trinkets help to create a more comfortable experience. She can also use a low-volume razor or keep it simple with quiet scissors.
But ultimately, Laura's passion for working with children is what makes the haircut succeed.

"He would get his haircut and it was literally impossible," said Brian Franks, Ethan's father. "And then with Laura working with him, the transformations that he has made has just been awesome."

Laura loves the moment when a child finishes their haircut. Together, they celebrate the completion of a task that is easily taken for granted.

"It's just amazing that me just being me is able to help these children be successful," she said.
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